Today: Jun 19, 2024

Outsourcing assets of tourism department

2 mins read

The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to outsource assets of the Tourism department lying idle without any use for tourism activities in various areas of Jammu and Kashmir, including some tourist places. The government has decided to constitute a committee for deciding the mechanism of outsourcing the identified assets of the tourism department in a phased manner. Tourism sector suffered a lot during past three decades and thankfully seems picking up once again as from past several months Kashmir has been witnessing very good foot-fall of tourists thus giving a boost to an otherwise dying industry. While the UT administration has been taking various steps to put this sector back on rails, the decision to outsource the otherwise defunct assets of the tourism department too is a significant one and will go a long way to help add to the tourism infrastructure and facilities. It goes without saying that tourism department has assets at primary locations and a number of these assets are either not in use or under-used. Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation has assets at all prime locations but because these are run by the government itself, these are in pathetic condition. Take, for instance, Jammu-Srinagar Highway – JKTDC has Dak Bungalows at all prime locations – Banihal, Ramban, Batote, Kud etc. – but these remain under-used as they have poor management and are not maintained properly and thus tourists don’t prefer to use these facilities. Similarly, the tourism department has single/double/four/six bed room huts at Gulmarg and Pahalgam but these huts too are poorly managed. Had these huts been run by private people, these would attract huge flow of tourists but here only those prefer to use these accommodations who fail to get a room in some decent hotel. In this backdrop, the decision of the government to outsource the under-used tourism department assets is a good initiative. On one hand it will help the government to earn from these assets and on the other hand, it will help generate employment as private players will come forward and run these assets on professional and modern lines.

That said, while promoting tourism in Kashmir, the government should be mindful of the issues related to the environment. Take, for instance, Gulmarg, all the trash and garbage is thrown in the forest areas along out circular road. The entire area, which otherwise is a wonderful drive overlooking the rest of the valley is stinking all the time and the waste and garbage has started rotting the trees there. Even the Gulmarg Bowl, no steps are being taken to ensure cleanliness. Same is the story of other tourist resorts. It goes without saying that tourists are not expected to be aware of the importance of environmental conservation. It is the responsibility of the government and the stakeholders, especially the tour operators to frame required rules and norms for the visitors to ensure they, while visiting the fragile zones, do not end up causing damage to the environment.  In the case of Kashmir, we do not have set ‘dos and don’ts’ for the tourists. Sadly, we have been allowing the flow of visitors to the tourist destinations much beyond their carrying capacity for years, and eventually, the continuous process has adversely impacted our forests, water bodies, glaciers, and so on.

It is true that Kashmir needs tourism and tourists but it is also important to think ‘at what cost.’ Tourism helps Kashmir’s economy in a big way but it is not the backbone of Kashmir’s economy. In fact, it is not considered an economic industry anywhere in the world, except in some Middle East countries. It is a compensatory initiative, and we should treat it as such.  It should not be our main economic industry. We must focus to develop our agriculture and horticulture industries further, which already contribute more than 70 percent to our GDP. That doesn’t mean that tourism should be focused upon, of course it should be but not at the cost of our fragile environment.

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